Chaos rules ‘Pen’ statue public hearing as BJP, NTK oppose DMK’s pet project

The hearing that began at 10.30 am turned chaotic when a few members from the BJP, NTK, and a few fishermen’s associations affiliated to these parties, opposed the DMK’s pet project.
DMK partymen shouting slogans against the speakers of other political parties and activists during the meeting in Chennai | P JAWAHAR
DMK partymen shouting slogans against the speakers of other political parties and activists during the meeting in Chennai | P JAWAHAR

CHENNAI: The public hearing for the 'Pen Monument' proposed in memory of former chief minister M Karunanidhi inside the sea off the Marina beach was marred by heated arguments between the cadre of different political parties. The public hearing that began at 10.30 am turned chaotic when a few members from the BJP, NTK, and a few fishermen's associations affiliated with these parties, opposed the pet project of DMK.

The hearing was held by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) at Kalaivanar Arangam as part of the statutory process under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification. Over 1,500 people attended the hearing, which was chaired by Chennai district collector S Amirtha Jothi and TNPCB member secretary R Kannan. 

Within minutes after the officials and project consultant explained the salient features of the monument, the ruckus broke out. The initial few, who began expressing their opinion on the stage, were affiliated with DMK and wanted the monument to be constructed without any hindrance. One person identified as Perumal went on to claim that he take his life if the monument was not built. VP Mani, president of a vendor association, wanted Marina beach to be named after Kalaignar. 

The members of other political parties, activists and fishermen groups, who were against the project, accused the authorities of being hand-in-glove with the ruling party. But things went south when BJP fisher wing leader MC Munuswamy and environmental activist S Mugilan started speaking. He said the Thiruvalluvar statue in Kanyakumari stands tall at 41 metres, while the proposed pen monument will be 42 metres in height.

“So, is Karunanidhi greater than Thiruvalluvar?" It immediately triggered an uproar from DMK cadres, who came to blows with the members of other parties. The police timely intervened and brought the situation under control. 

S Mugilan, known for his campaign against illegal sand mining, was booed and not allowed to speak. He hung on for 10 minutes, but the speakers were turned off. He refused to leave the stage and did a sit-in protest before police evicted him from the hall. 

NTK chief coordinator Seeman said a lot of cement and rocks need to be dumped inside the sea to build the monument and that it would affect the fishing activity in the area. “Around 13 fishing villages will be affected. I will continue to protest and will break the statue if it is constructed,” he said.

Some prominent civil society members, who were present at the venue, said they were not opposed to the construction of the monument but are against the site selection. Marine biologist TD Babu and environmental engineer V Prabhakar from Poovulagin Nanbargal said considering the sea level rise projections mentioned in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the site is unsuitable for such construction.

"There may be a scenario in the future, when the government may have to consider shifting the statue to another place."

Thirumurugan Gandhi, a human rights activist and founder of the May 17 Movement, said telling the legacy of Dravidian stalwarts like Kalaignar Karunanidhi to future generations is important, but not by building a statue in the sea. His contribution during the language movement and social justice reforms should find a place in school books, which is currently missing." 

What next?

With TNPCB concluding that the public hearing has been successfully completed, the consultant Hubert Enviro Care Systems will be asked to revise the draft EIA incorporating all the necessary objections and suggestions recorded during the hearing. The final EIA will be sent to the union environment ministry for obtaining the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance.


The proposed project area falls under Coastal Regulation Zone-IVA (sea), CRZ-IA (turtle nesting grounds) and CRZ II (urban coastline) areas

The place is also prone to cyclones and tsunamis

The area falls under Zone-III (Moderate risk) according to the Indian Standard Seismic Zoning Map

Fishermen from Mattankuppam, Ayothikuppam, Nadukuppam and Nochikuppam are directly dependent on the waters where the pen memorial has been proposed. Prawns and crabs breed on this muddy seabed

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